They say the holidays are the most wonderful time of the year – but for those of us who have recently lost a loved one, that’s not always the case. Every little tradition, from decorating the Christmas tree to opening presents on Christmas morning, can serve as a painful reminder of those who have passed on.
If you find yourself feeling depressed during the holiday season, you’re far from alone. This time of the year is a lonely and difficult period for many, many people. But you don’t have to suffer in silence and put on a brave face for celebrations with family and friends. Instead, try to deal with the holiday blues in a healthy manner using one of these tips.
Tip #1: Seek Comfort in Friends & Family
You don’t have to pretend like everything’s peachy for your friends and family. Not only will they understand the sorrow that often surrounds the holidays after a tough loss, but chances are they have experienced that sorrow themselves at some point. We all lose loved ones; it is a tragic but inescapable reality of life. Your friends and family know this, and they don’t expect you to pretend like everything’s fine when it’s not.
So seek comfort in the trusted friends and family that remain. Simply talking about our feelings of grief and loss goes a long way in helping us heal. To have another human being listen to our suffering is incredibly powerful, and can immediately take some of the weight off of our shoulders. You don’t have to carry the burden of life and loss all by yourself – that’s what friends and family are for, to help us shoulder some of that burden. On the other hand, pushing those feelings away and instead putting on a brave face can be detrimental to one’s mental well-being. It only delays and prolongs the healing process – not to mention, it’s positively exhausting.
Tip #2: Turn to the Church
Church provides an important sense of community and belonging to billions of people across the world. It is a place where we can keenly feel that we are a part of something much, much bigger than ourselves, and that feeling can be comforting to those suffering the recent loss of a loved one. It helps us tune into the ongoing, ever-changing cycle of life.
In addition to the spiritual benefits of church, it also acts as a safe haven to many who would otherwise feel alone, but find an entire family in their congregation. Your fellow churchgoers will be there for you always and especially when you need it most. Don’t be afraid to turn to them for help, companionship, and support. We all deserve a loving community that we can turn to during our most difficult times.
Tip #3: Speak with a Professional
Many of us prefer to handle our problems on our own, shrugging off the idea of therapy as unnecessary, expensive, or too much of a hassle. But even if you don’t go to a therapist regularly, the holidays might be a good time to book a session or two. We all need a little help to get through life, and professional psychiatrists and therapists are often the people most equipped to help us. There’s no reason to be ashamed of seeking professional help when you need it. It’s amazing what the right therapist and the right medication can do for your life. It’ll leave you wondering why you didn’t bite the bullet and reach out sooner!
Tip #4: Create New Traditions
Change is inevitable, so we might as well embrace it. Hang onto your family’s old traditions for as long as you want to, but don’t forget to create new traditions, too. It will help you reframe the idea of life changes into more of a positive concept. Take your grandchildren to a Christmas movie. Treat yourself to a holiday spa day. Bake your favorite cookies and enjoy them all yourself if you want to! Whatever new traditions you decide to create, enjoy and embrace them. It’s what your loved ones of past would have wanted you to do.
Wishing a Merry Christmas and happy holiday season to all in our HealthKeeperz family! But if it’s not a happy time for you, that’s okay, too. We understand that this can be a highly difficult time of year for many families, especially those whom we meet through our hospice division. Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and remember, we’re always here for you.
Love, your HealthKeeperz family
From vast mountains of mashed potatoes and gravy, to honey-baked hams the size of your head, to tempting Christmas cookies at every house you visit – the holidays aren’t always the kindest to our diets or our waistlines. But are they really the grave threat to our health that so many make them out to be? Let’s discuss, with a few tips for staying healthy during the most decadent time of the year.
Tip #1: Portion Control
Here’s a revolutionary idea: When you’re watching your figure and you see that fresh-baked pecan pie, you don’t have to run screaming. In fact, “forbidding” ourselves from certain foods only has the psychological effect of making us crave them more. Instead of seeing certain holiday treats as the enemy, allow yourself to enjoy them in moderation. Savor each bite and enjoy the experience fully without guilt. One cookie here and there, one helping of creamy green bean casserole, isn’t going to kill you – or even make you gain weight. It’s only repeated overeating that has that effect. So instead of tricking your brain into wanting these foods even more than you already do, give yourself complete freedom to enjoy them in reasonable portions. Life is way too short to miss out on that one dish you look forward to the whole year.
Tip #2: Incorporate Movement into Holiday Festivities
This tip is particularly useful if you have hyperactive grandchildren. There are many enjoyable ways to celebrate the holidays while moving around, from family flag football games to strolling around town to admire Christmas lights. It won’t even feel like exercise, but it’ll help offset some of those extra pounds that many of us pack on during the holidays. Plus, it’ll wear out the kids, making for a more relaxing and stress-free holiday celebration – because tired kids are happy kids. (That’s often true for adults, too!)
Tip #3: Lay Off the Booze
A glass of eggnog (or two) can make the whole holiday feel instantly more fun and less stressful. There’s nothing wrong with having a little something to take the edge off at big family gatherings – just be careful not to overdo it, because alcohol is one of the most fattening beverages you can consume, without filling you up like food does. Plus, in large quantities, it will only lead to hangovers and headaches, which suck all the fun out of your day. To best enjoy holiday parties, either abstain or maintain a smart balance with your alcohol consumption.
Tip #4: Stay Calm
Gaining a little weight over the holiday season is completely normal, and nothing to beat yourself up over. Trust that your eating habits will level off once the new year comes around, and don’t stress too much. Did you know that many scientific studies have found that stress can actually contribute to weight gain? So not only is it unproductive to stress, but it can actually be counterproductive to your weight goals. Try to keep a calm mindset about normal holiday weight gain. It doesn’t mean the end of your health journey.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays from your HealthKeeperz family! Find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @HealthKeeperz and share with us ways that you’re staying healthy this holiday season.
Earlier this week, I began reading an advent season devotional with my family each evening. Advent is the Christian season of waiting, anticipation, and eager expectation of the coming of Christ.
The season of Advent begins four Sundays before Christmas. In our fast-paced modern world, Advent is often forgotten due to the ever-increasing emphasis on Christmas Day. Now I'm not suggesting that Christmas Day is any less important than it has ever been. After all, Christmas Day is the day that we celebrate one of the most significant events in human history, namely, that God incarnate was born, and his name is Jesus.
Now I realize that, traditionally, the Christmas season has begun the day after Thanksgiving with the infamous Black Friday shopping day. But historically, this is inaccurate. Throughout church history, the Christmas season—Advent—didn’t start until Christmas Day and the days leading up to Christmas, and explicitly beginning four Sundays before Christmas (you should Google “Advent” for more of the historical foundation of this wonderful season).
Now back to my Advent reading. The theme of one of our devotions this week was willingness. The devotion was centered on the willingness of Jesus, God the Son, to come and be born in human flesh, to live a righteous life fully as a man, and to give his life sacrificially for the redemption of sinners. Although in fewer words, this was essentially the message of the angel Gabriel to Joseph, Jesus' earthly father, regarding the purpose of the Christ-child in Matthew 1:21. Jesus was born to die and to die “willingly." Let that sink in. The author of the devotional, Pastor Paul Tripp, simply asks this question throughout the reading: "Am I characterized by willingness?"
I haven't been able to lay this question down. I've mulled over it now for 48 hours, as of the time of this writing, and I must say that I'm surprised by how unwilling I can be at times. Sometimes my unwillingness shows up in a lack of patience with my children or a friend or a coworker. I can be unwilling to be mildly inconvenienced for someone or unwilling to be interrupted. Unwilling to serve, unwilling to. . . well, I could go on and on.
But let me share with you how I intend to celebrate the Advent season this year. I want to be willing, and I mean to take steps to do it. Since I read that Advent devotion, I have set in my heart and mind by praying for God's help to be aware of any opportunity I have to demonstrate a willing spirit. In doing this, I have found seemingly endless possibilities to bless others by allowing the willing Spirit of Christ, which is in me, to do what he always seeks to do. And what is that He seeks? It is to help me live like Jesus, even if it should mean laying down my life for others.
So how's it going for these last 48-plus hours, you ask? It's both wonderful and challenging. I've had to slow down and think anew about my holiday celebrations and how they ought to point me to Jesus. I've had to think about gift-giving in terms of giving gifts out of my love for someone versus because I drew their name. And may I say that name drawing is a wonderful way to decide to buy a gift for someone? It’s much like praying, "Lord, I want to bless someone with a special gift. Would you choose who I need to show some special love to?"
Remember, it is better to give than to receive. And I think it's better because being a good giver of gifts is demonstrating a willingness that finds its root in the greatest gift that has ever been bestowed on mankind. That is the gift of God coming in human form to live with us and willingly die for us.
May our Advent and Christmas seasons be filled with the love, joy, and peace that has been secured for us in Jesus Christ.
Yours, joyfully in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis